The town of Moynaq used to be a thriving fishing town the banks of the Aral Sea.

Today, all the water is gone, leaving behind a desolate and abandoned ghost town.

The Aral Sea was used to be the fourth-largest saline lake in the world, covering with about 68,000sqkm and stretching from Kazakhstan in the north to Uzbekistan in the south.

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However in the 1960s, Soviet rulers diverted the course of the two rivers that fed the Arel sea for the purpose of developing cotton production in the area, the waters began to recede.

Most of the fish were killed as the salinity levels rose dramatically. In the next 50 years, this continued and the Aral Sea has been reduced to just 10 percent of its original size.

At first, Moynaq fishermen hoped that the situation will return to normal, but when it became clear that it wouldn't, most of them left for Russia and Kazakhstan to find work.

Over a 100,000 people have left the town since, leaving only 18,000 left in the abandoned desert. Most of the people left in the town work in the cotton industries for meagre pay. It is ironic because cotton is the cause of their woes in the first place.

Apart from the cotton workers, most of the people left in the ghost town are livestock farmers and grandparents taking care of their grandchildren whose parents have left in search of work.

Those remaining in the town are at risk of many health problems resulting from the toxic fertilizers and pesticides used in cotton cultivation.

The dry seabeds are heavily polluted by these chemicals and residents are at risk of cancer and respiratory and immune disorders.

In this town, the rate of oesophageal cancer is 25 times higher than the world average.

There may be hope yet for this community as Kazakhstan, with assistance from the World Bank, started the Northern Aral Sea restoration project in 2003.

The project works to restore water to its northern part of the lake, making it possible to fish there, even though on a small scale.

Hope springs anew as there are now signs of life on the sea banks.